Free agency isn't just about signing the big-name players, and that was proved today when the Cleveland Browns announced the signing of TE Jim Dray. At 6-5, 255 lbs, Dray is entering his fifth year in the NFL. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 by the Arizona Cardinals, where he has played for the past four seasons.
Dray saw the most action of his career this past season for the Cardinals, where he started 15 games and recorded 26 catches for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did not drop a pass all season, according to Pro Football Focus, but is mostly considered a blocking tight end. Even as a blocker, though, PFF did not think too highly of him:
Dray has been something of a subpar player since entering the league. Most recently he earned every bit of his -13.0 grade on 698 snaps with some woeful run blocking while contributing 26 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns. If you’re a Browns fan and you’re not underwhelmed by this you should be.
Brendan Leister of DraftBrowns.com projects the possible difference in skill set between Dray and Barnidge:
Assuming Dray is more of true TE & better run blocker than Barnidge. Barnidge is more of an H-back, great in pass pro, terrible run blocker.— Brendan Leister (@BrendanLeister) March 13, 2014
Here is what our Cardinals affiliate said about Dray's production this past season:
In terms of stats, Rob Housler led tight ends in catches with 39 catches for 454 yards and his first professional touchdown, but was a disappointment overall. Jim Dray became the most reliable player of the group for the offense. Arians called him "as trustworthy a ballplayer" as there was on the team. He was not stellar at either receiving or blocking, but he was reliable at both. He had the most playing time and caught 26 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
This does not put TE Jordan Cameron's job in jeopardy by any means, but what about TE Gary Barnidge? Barnidge is under contract through 2015 and is scheduled to make $1.15 million this year, and $1.20 million next year. Barnidge was utilized as mostly a blocking tight end last year, and he seemed to do a pretty good job. I think it makes sense for Cleveland to have Cameron, Barnidge, and Dray on their roster as a good trio of tight ends. If you recall, the third tight end position was very fluid last year, with MarQueis Gray, Keavon Milton, and Andre Smith occupying roster spots, but not seeing much playing time.